When I first began my research, working to examine similarities and differences between Clinton and Obama’s management of their administration’s respective budget crises, I was solely focused on each President’s actions and how that impacted the final outcome. While I may have wanted each of the issues to be so simple for the sake of ease, any political standoff quite obviously has different actors. From the starting point of my paper, I just assumed the character of the Republican controlled congress in 1995 and 2011 would be similar—not much has changed about the party’s agenda over the last 15 or so years, right?
My short sightedness failed to overlook that even if the end goals are the same, smaller government and a smaller budget, the personality types of the actors are immensely different—and this isn’t just confined to the two different presidents. The most interesting and unexpected focus of my paper is the comparison between Newt Gingrich, the Speaker in 95, and Jim Boehner, the current speaker—and how these different characters impacted outcomes.
Another interesting piece of the conversation was the implications that Clinton’s part of the shutdown played in the rest of his Presidency. Shutting down the government was one of a few strategies Clinton used to build up credibility behind the threats he made—the more prominent tool he used was veto power. Clinton used the veto quite a bit during his Presidency—37 vetoes compared to 12 during the Bush administration or 2 during the Obama administration—which allowed him to really push for policies he wanted. This was because the actual threat of a veto existed—it worked a similar way that repeated games work in game theory models, trust is built and the players respond accordingly. Clinton used this strategy to not just get his budget passed, but to fight for a lot of the legislation he wanted.